CBS 17 investigates: How prepared were Raleigh police for a riot?


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Questions continue to be asked about how prepared was the Raleigh police for the civil unrest that broke out Saturday following the peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd.

Riot control is one of the most difficult things a police department can face.

And although unrest can be triggered by almost any kind of incident from reaction to a police shooting to a sports team victory celebration gone awry, experts say plans to contain the situation shouldn’t be made up in the spur of the moment.

Long before the first demonstrator hits the streets, experts say police departments should have plans in place in case the mass gathering goes sideways.

Heather Cotter, the Executive Director of the International Public Safety Association says “law enforcement, fire, hospitals, emergency management, public works and faith-based organizations must be together at the table discussing the policies and procedures that should be in place when an event occurs.”

Prior to the first protest in Raleigh, CBS 17 investigators tried to find out how Raleigh police were preparing.

On May 29, we sent an email to the police deportment asking: “What changes will be made to operations today if something does happen?”

We also asked, “Is a plan already in place” in case protests lead to unrest.

The department replied Saturday morning saying it “does not release details regarding public security plans, as that information is not public record.”

On Sunday, the city’s police chief said they were prepared in advance, but offered no detail.

“There was a plan and there was communication with the individuals who put it together,” said Cassandra Deck-Brown.

CBS 17 wanted to know what a plan should include, so we turned to experts in the field.

There are lots of elements that make up a good plan, according to a 33-year veteran police officer who now trains other officers.

Retired La Crosse Wisconsin Police Department Lt. Dan Marcou says departments need to have:

  • Street clearance plans
  • A pre-set detour plan for anticipated hot spots.
  • Be able to recognize the type of crowd they are facing.
  • Identify dangerous behaviors in a crowd.

Marcou also says good communication with the media is important and recommends “a public information specialist who is an expert at rumor control.”

During the riots, no one heard from Raleigh’s police spokespeople or the chief.

“Just because you don’t see me out here doesn’t mean my work and my effort as the leader of the Raleigh police department was not present,” said Deck-Brown.

Raleigh’s city council is also asking for information on the police department’s plans and how it responds to the situation.

“I’m asking for a comprehensive report of this weekend’s events,” said city councilor Saige Martin.

Among the things he wants answers about are “The number of crowds for each event, how plans were executed by the individuals who attended, the uses of force and the degrees of force taken by law enforcement.”

He also wants to know what kind of staff resources and outside resources were deployed.

The council also wants to make police training information available to the public.

“I want to share that list of training that our officers already go through,” said Councilor Nicole Stewart. “It would be helpful to see the numbers or percentages of those who’ve gone through training and…what it would take to get those officers all trained under those policies.”

Once the council has the training information, the mayor says it should also send those documents to the newly established Raleigh Police Advisory Board.

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